About a billion years ago, Bob Garfield was a well-regarded media pontificator who had a huge megaphone. And so, seeing clouds on the horizon, he wrote the prescient "Chaos Scenario" article that graced the front page of "Ad Age." While he wrote a lot of smart stuff, it can basically be boiled down to a pretty simple thesis: "What happens if Media as we know it ends, long before New Media begins?" What would that mean for newspapers, advertising agencies, media buyers, consumer goods and the economy overall?
It was a grim read. Luckily it was fiction. Or so we thought.
After all, crystal ball gazers and media prognosticators are a dime a dozen. And so, things continued to meander along. The world didn't end. Media didn't stop.
So Garfield, who can be pretty sharp about these things, decided it was time to do it again. He reached into his bag of tricks and found "The Chaos Scenario (2.0)."
In the intervening 3 years, pretty much everything he said would happen has happened. The sky has fallen. Media is in a full blown retreat. Newspapers are doing crazy sale lease-back deals on their real estate. Oh, and Twitter has arrived (Garfield didn't predict Twitter).
It may be that the folks on the top of the mountain just aren't in any position to re-invent or re-imagine a world in which the mountain is flat.
Certainly GM spent plenty of time and money 'researching' alternative energy and alternative automobile technology while taking hundreds of innovative EV1's to the dump and crushing them. Electric Cars were a threat to Detroit how? In any case, they made their bed.
But the issues facing Media and Advertising, as Bob pointed out 3 years ago, are far more fundamentally scary to the current holders of the crown.
First of all, the current rulers of the universe operate in an ecosystem that requires scarcity. Scarcity of publishing outlets (cable, broadcasts, big printing presses), and scarcity of media outlets. (Limited broadcast inventory keeps prices high, and makes media buying a bit of a blood sport.)
But for anyone who's been paying attention these past three years, scarcity is being replaced by abundance. Abundance of media publishing tools (flip cams, cell phones, wi-fi), and abundance of voices (blogs, twitter, vlogs, etc.).
Garfield calls abundance Chaos -- and the similarities can't be ignored. (See http://www.thechaosscenario.net/blog/).
Use whatever metaphor you like. Haystacks and Needles. Signal and Noise. Chaos and Totalitarianism. Ok, that one doesn't work so well.
Because, as it turns out, we need to finish breaking the past before we can begin to build the future.
Part One: The end of big, centralized, resource-constrained media. (In progress.)
Part Two: Shopkeepers re-learning how to sell things in a global, always on, interactive marketplace. (See Zappos.com, Etsy.tv, and other leading 'social media' marketers for clues.)
Part Three: Content is made by all, consumed by all. Value moves to the most prolific creators, the curators and filters, and the most incisive media-makers. Ubiquity becomes essential. Distribution by friends and fans replaces 'shelf-space' control of the former owners of high value real-estate.
Part Four: TBD (revenue).
Bob's point is that if you're one of the folks currently making a living in media or advertising, the immediate chaos you're experiencing is in your paycheck. And he's surely right about that. But what no one entirely believes is that the changes we're mid-way through may be more fundamental than that. Big may be replaced by small. Etsy is proof of this. National may be replaced by Local. (On Craigslist I don't buy or sell with anyone who isn't in my neighborhood.) And Advertising may be replaced by marketing. It may get harder and harder to create needs for products, when folks are shifting from credit-card fueled excess to paycheck-driven daily needs.
I buy that we're in a period of Chaos. I'm just not sure it isn't the permanent state of all things going forward.
Which is why I see a future in which trusted filters (both human and automated) will help us all make sense of the world, provide recommendations and reviews, and allow the fast-expanding volume of created content to find new audiences.
In a world of unlimited choice and rapidly increasing data sources - the alternative to chaos is Curated Knowledge.
Steven Rosenbaum is the CEO and Co-Founder of Magnify.net - a fast-growing video publishing platform that powers more than 50,000 web sites, media companies, and content entrepreneurs to aggregate and curate web video from a wide variety of web sources. Currently Magnify.net publishes over 50,000 channels of Curated-Consumer Video, and is working closely with a wide variety of media makers, communities, and publishers in evolving their content offerings to include content created by, sorted and reviewed by community members. Rosenbaum is a serial entrepreneur, Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker, and well known innovator in the field of user-generated media production. Rosenbaum Directed and Executive Produced the critically acclaimed 7 Days In September, and his MTV Series Unfiltered is widely regarding as the first commercial use of Consumer Generated Video in US mass media. Steve can be contacted at email@example.com Follow Steve Rosenbaum on Twitter: www.twitter.com/magnify
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